It’s an all-too-common scene: I toss and turn for a few hours before I finally wake up, roll out of bed, and step over the used tissues that are littered carelessly about my bedroom floor. I wander to the bathroom and rub the sleep out of my swollen, painful eyes. My lips and nose are also chapped, enlarged, and red, and my face tingles all over with the remnants of last night’s uncontrollable, violent storm of tears. I take a deep breath and shower, but my conflicted, irrational thoughts run rampant, and I’m in tears again before I’m even dressed for the day. Most days, I pull myself together and head into work for a weary day. Today, I called out, pulled out my Bible, and watched an episode of The X-Files.
There’s nothing wrong. My life is unbelievably good right now. I have an intense and challenging, yet incredibly rewarding job that I love and look forward to most days. I have an amazing church family, and amazing friends, both in Lynchburg, VA and Boone, NC, and there is an abundance of love being poured out on me by friends and family all the time. I have the best boyfriend that anyone could ever ask for, who frustrates me at times, confuses me at times, but who faithfully, selflessly cares for me more than I could have imagined possible. I have a loving God and Savior who forgives my sin, who is strong in my weakness, who loves me even more than all my friends and family combined — more than I could ever hope to understand.
Everything is wrong. I struggle with anxiety and depression. And every good thing in my life is tinged daily by my anxious thoughts. I can’t handle my job, can’t handle how exhausting it is, and how much energy it requires. I can’t handle serving my church, and I’m too tired to spend time with people. I just want to sleep, because being with people just stresses me out me more. My relationship is unhealthy, it’s too much to ask him to handle, I can’t deal with long-distance anymore, and I can’t wait for God’s timing in showing us what the next step in our relationship should be. I’m too sinful and messed up to be loved by God, and I don’t understand why He allows me to feel this much pain, so often.
All will be made well. God has already made me well, but not yet. God has already healed my pain, but not yet. He has called me, justified me, He is sanctifying me, He will glorify me. I am His, and He cares for me, and there’s a reason why every inch of my body hurts, every day. There’s a reason why I can’t calm my anxious thoughts, even with Scripture, godly counsel, joyful distraction. There’s a reason why my jaws crack with tension, why my shoulders strain against my neck and all my muscles feel like they’re trying to detach themselves from my achy bones. There’s a reason why my stomach churns with nausea and sharp, burning pains, no matter how healthy I eat, no matter what. There’s a reason why my knees and ankles ache and feel so very frail. There’s a reason why I can’t control my emotions and my fears. There’s a reason why I languish in exhaustion, after six hours of sleep, after eight hours of sleep, after twelve hours of sleep. There’s a reason why I sometimes cry nearly to the point of vomiting, and there’s a reason why in those moments, nothing seems to help.
Everything happens for a reason, because God is lovingly and sovereignly directing all things in His creation, for His glory, and for the good and greater holiness of those who love Him, who He has chosen. And He has, out of His infinite wisdom and pleasure, by His grace, because of the righteousness of Christ — He has chosen me. And He has orchestrated my lot in life for a greater purpose than I can grasp.
I cling to that in these times when I am not the only one affected by my pain, when my closest friends stay up with me on the phone while I sob, listen to me vent my frustrations time and time again, put up with all the ups and downs that come with the whatever-the-crap-is-wrong-with-me. Because feeling like a burden on others only increases my insanity, only makes it more difficult to bear — and so the very thing that should be comfort and hope, becomes a strange idolatry, an unhealthy dependence that only exacerbates the anxiety. I crave comfort, significance, security, hope — and I know that God uses others to provide those things for me at times, but often my greatest sources of comfort also spark my deepest fears, because I feel like I cannot in good conscience ask others to bear my pain. But when I think of what Christ has borne for me, so willingly, and when I think that He calls us to bear each other’s burdens, I have hope. Because the pain and anxiety that I deal with sucks, but it is a mere fragment of the suffering that many others have experienced in this life, and it is the most minute speck in comparison to the sacrifice of Christ for all mankind. And though I suffer frequently, and though I have much pain to bear, I am also not the only one who suffers, and my pain helps me live compassionately — towards my students, who try my patience, and yet in whom I can see reflections of my own struggles; towards my friends and family, who I sometimes blame for not understanding my pain, or caring for me as I feel they ought, but who each have their own burdens to bear, and each of whom I long to care for and support as they do me; towards my boyfriend, who understands and feels my pain more deeply than anyone else, though he doesn’t understand it either (even I don’t understand it, so I can’t blame him for that!), yet who I often unjustly expect too much of, when I should be running to God with my burdens and striving also not to focus merely on what he should do for me, but to bear my boyfriend’s struggles in return. It’s crazy how pain drives you inward, and centers all your concern on yourself, which only really makes things worse.
Around this time last year, I was writing a similar post, lamenting my pain. It’s crazy and incredible to think of all that God has done in that short year — He has blessed me beyond measure. And yet, the same struggle remains. But it does not persist, at least. The pain persists, but the insanity comes and goes, haha. And looking back on last year, and on the many years before, I see God’s sustenance and faithfulness so clearly. And I can’t get lost in hopelessness, because I know that even though these past few weeks have felt endlessly difficult, that feeling will not last forever. At some point, my anxieties will die down for awhile, and life will feel normal again. At some point, I’ll just calm the frak down. At some point, I’ll remember that my life is not the center of the universe, and that not everything depends on me — I’ll learn again how to care more for others than for myself, and I’ll regain my footing on the solid rock. And that will last for a few weeks, a few months, or longer, or shorter, as God sees fit. But, for now, because there is no other option, I let the emotion do it’s worst. I try to rest as much as I can, I try to remind myself that the circumstances of life (though they are indeed stressful) are not the source of my anxiety, I try to find times to cry with people, I try to seek Scripture for comfort and hope, and I try not to beat myself up for feelings I can’t control. I often fail, but God still loves me.
Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind. But God is good, and He is at work. And I may or may not ever understand this craziness, that flares up every now and then, usually in these colder months, that crushes my hope and joy and sends me whirling into a vortex of emotional instability and apathy and self-pity. And I may not ever learn to deal with my pain in ways that are healthy and wholesome and right. But I do know that God loves me, and that He has given me many people throughout my life who have loved me, and that right now, I am so deeply loved by so many. I know that God forgives me, and teaches me to forgive others, and strengthens others to forgive me, too. And I know that God is in control, when I feel like I’m out of control, and that He will provide for my needs in every way, and will use my life to His glory despite myself, just as He always has.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord.